TOKYO (AP) — China will not isolate Taiwan by preventing U.S. officials from traveling there, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday in Tokyo, concluding her tour of Asia highlighted with a visit in Taipei which infuriated China..
The Chinese have tried to isolate Taiwan, Pelosi said, including blocking the self-governing island from joining the World Health Organization.
“They may try to stop Taiwan from visiting or participating in other places, but they won’t isolate Taiwan by stopping us from going there,” she said, defending her trip, which some say heightened tensions in the region.
Pelosi called the claim “ridiculous” and said his trip to Taiwan was not intended to change the status quo for the island but to maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait. She praised Taiwan’s hard-fought democracy, including its progress on diversity, including LGBTQ rights, and its success in technology and business, while criticizing China’s violations of trade agreements, arms proliferation and human rights issues.
“If we don’t stand up for human rights in China because of business interests, we lose all moral authority to talk about human rights anywhere in the world,” Pelosi said. “China has contradictions – progress in terms of uplifting people, horrible things are happening when it comes to Uyghurs. In fact, it has been called genocide.
Pelosi said “the two great countries” – the United States and China – need to communicate on areas such as climate and other global issues. “This is not about our visit to determine what the US-China relationship is. This is a much bigger and longer term challenge and again we have to recognize that we have to work together in some areas.
“Our friendship with Taiwan is strong. It’s bipartisan in the House and Senate, overwhelming support for peace and the status quo in Taiwan,” she said.
Pelosi, the first House speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years, said in Taipei on Wednesday that the US commitment to democracy on the island and elsewhere “remains rock solid.”
Pelosi and five other members of Congress arrived in Tokyo on Thursday evening after visiting Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea.
China, which claims Taiwan and has threatened to annex it by force if necessary, called its visit to the island a provocation and began military drills on Thursdayincluding missile strike training, in six areas around Taiwan, in what could be its largest since the mid-1990s.
Pelosi said China launched the “strikes probably using our visit as an excuse.”
Earlier on Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Chinese military drills targeting Taiwan posed a “serious problem” that threatens regional peace and security after five ballistic missiles launched as part of the drills landed in the economic zone. exclusive to Japan near a remote southwestern island.
Kishida, speaking after breakfast with Pelosi and his congressional delegation, said the missile launches must be “stopped immediately”.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said five missiles landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone off Hateruma, an island on the southernmost tip of Japan’s main islands, on Thursday. He said Japan had protested to China, saying the missiles “threaten Japan’s national security and the lives of the Japanese people, which we strongly condemn.”
The Defense Ministry later said it believed the other four missiles, fired from China’s southeast coast of Fujian, flew over Taiwan.
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, attending a regional meeting in Cambodia, said China’s actions “seriously affect peace and stability in the region and the international community, and we demand the immediate suspension of the exercises military”.
Japan has in recent years boosted its defense capability and troop presence in southwestern Japan and outlying islands, including Okinawa., which is about 700 kilometers (420 miles) northeast of Taiwan. Many locals say they fear their island could soon become embroiled in a conflict in Taiwan. Okinawa is home to the majority of the approximately 50,000 US troops based in Japan under a bilateral security pact.
During Friday’s breakfast, Pelosi and his congressional delegation also discussed their shared security concern over China, North Korea and Russia, and pledged their commitment to work for peace and stability. in Taiwan, Kishida said. Pelosi and the delegation also held talks with his Japanese counterpart, Lower House Speaker Hiroyuki Hosoda, after briefly observing a plenary session where they were greeted with a standing ovation.
Japan and its key ally the United States have pushed for new security and economic frameworks with other democracies in the Indo-Pacific region and Europe to counter China’s growing influence. amid growing tensions between Beijing and Taipei.
Days before Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, a group of senior Japanese lawmakers, including former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, visited the island and discussed regional security with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing- wen. Ishiba said Japan, while working with the United States to prevent conflict in the Indo-Pacific, wanted a defense agreement with Taiwan.
On Thursday, foreign ministers from the industrialized nations of the Group of Seven issued a statement saying “there is no justification for using a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait.” He said “China’s escalating response risks increasing tensions and destabilizing the region.”
China expressed dissatisfaction with the statement for the last-minute cancellation of talks between Chinese and Japanese foreign ministers on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Cambodia on Thursday.
Pelosi spoke Thursday in South Koreaalso a key ally of the United States, which has stayed away from the Taiwan issue, ostensibly to avoid antagonizing China, focusing instead on the growing nuclear threat from North Korea.
In recent years, South Korea has struggled to balance the United States and China as their rivalry has deepened.
Chinese military drills launched on Thursday involve its navy, air force and other departments and are due to last until Sunday. They include missile strikes on targets in the seas north and south of the island in an echo of the last major Chinese military exercises in 1995 and 1996 aimed at intimidating Taiwan’s leaders and voters.
Taiwan has put its army on high alert and organized civil defense exercises, while the United States has numerous naval assets in the region.
China has also flown warplanes into Taiwan and blocked imports of its citrus fruits and fish.
China views the island as a breakaway province and views visits to Taiwan by foreign officials as recognition of its sovereignty.
The Biden administration and Pelosi have said the United States remains committed to the “one China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as the government of China but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei. The administration discouraged but did not stop Pelosi from visiting.
Pelosi has long been a human rights advocate in China. She, along with other lawmakers, visited Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1991 to support democracy two years after a bloody military crackdown on protesters in the square.
As leader of the House of Representatives, Pelosi’s trip heightened US-China tensions more than visits by other members of Congress. The last House speaker to visit Taiwan was Newt Gingrich in 1997.
China and Taiwan, which separated in 1949 after a civil war, have no official relations but multibillion-dollar commercial ties.
Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea and Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Taiwan contributed to this report.